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Margaret Busby.

Margaret Busby, the legendary Ghanaian-born editor and first black female publisher in the UK, has been announced as chair of the judges for the 2020 Booker Prize for Fiction. She is joined on the panel by Lemn Sissay, author of the memoir My Name is Why and acclaimed poet whose Landmark poems have been inscribed on buildings in London, Huddersfield, and Manchester. Also included are Sameer Rahim, literary critic and author of the novel Asghar and Zahra; Emily Wilson, professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania; and Lee Child, whose Jack Reacher novels has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and who has been called “the strongest brand in publishing” by Forbes.

READ: 25 Authors, 41 Novels: An African History of the Booker Prize for Fiction

Hailed as the “Doyenne of Black British Publishing,” Busby’s decision to co-found the publishing press Allison & Busby, with Clive Allison, in 1967, made her Britain’s youngest and first Black woman book publisher. In her 20 years as Allison & Busby’s editorial director, she oversaw the publication of such significant books as Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen, George Lamming’s The Pleasures of Exile, Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door, and C.L.R. James’ The Black Jacobins. Her press further brought to public attention the work of such names as Rosa Guy, Miyamoto Musashi, Val Wilmer, Michele Roberts, and Andrew Salkey. Busby has since edited the groundbreaking Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent from the Ancient Egyptian to the Present (1992) and its sequel New Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of 20th- and 21st-Century Writing by Women of African Descent (2019). Last year, she was honoured with the inaugural Africa Writes Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Judging the Booker Prize is a collective act of investigation and understanding: seeking the best in new fiction and being receptive to its many possibilities,” said Booker Prize Foundation literary director Gaby Wood. “This year’s five judges are, in engagingly different ways, expert readers of the world. Their powers of perception have broken barriers in their respective fields, and I’m looking forward to knowing what their minds will find when they join forces.”

The £50,000 Booker Prize for Fiction is awarded to the best novel of the last 12 months published in the UK. The 2019 prize was jointly won by Bernardine Evaristo, for Girl, Woman, Other, making her the first Black female and first Black British person to win, and Margaret Atwood, a former winner who at 79 then became the oldest to win, for The Testaments.

This year’s longlist will be announced in July, with the shortlist in September, and the winner on 27 October 2020.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he sits on the judging panels of The Miles Morland Writing Scholarships and of The Gerald Kraak Prize. He is Nonfiction Editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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